Sunday, April 26, 2015


What is it about fans?

Growing up, we didn't have central air conditioning.

 One of my grand parents house had no air conditioning at all.  At bed time, the windows would be raised just a bit, the a monster of a fan in the attic would be cranked up, pulling air flow in through those windows, creating a draft throughout the house!  The bugs outside the windows would be caught up in this vacuum and be sucker into the window screen.  We got a kick out of thumping the big ones to see if the suction would pull them back.

There was a different kind of entertainment at my other grandparents house.  They have this heavy, black fan that oscillated back and forth, spreading air across the room. It was surrounded by a wire framework with gaps big enough to stick things in and we would be so tempted to poke at the blades with sticks and pencils and such, but never did  for fear of the Granddad.  We loved to sing into that ole fan and hear the chopped up echo of our sounds coming out the other side.

Air conditioning kinda changed all that.  The breeze from the fans were replaced with the hum of window air conditioners running throughout the night.

The fans of my youth were declared too dangerous for those with kids stupid enough to put their finger in it.  Whap!  Off to the emergency room they would go for stitches.

The replacement that followed were cheap box fans that created more noise than air flow.  People would set them on chairs and bedside tables at the head of the bed so that they would be able to feel the airflow throughout the night.  One side effect from these box fans was the constant hum that came from the fan blade being boxed in.

These users of box fans soon discovered that they could no longer sleep without one.  Soon, hotel guests were being spotted checking in with box fan in hand.  Wonder how many honeymoon nights started off with a cross breeze from two of these?!

Oscillating fans have tried to make a comeback.  To make them cheap, the fan blades were made of plastic.  Running.on high, it was just a matter of time before the blade attachment would crack and then you would have the enviable crash of the.blades and the wire cage.  Then it's back to the store for a good old box fan again!

I had to laugh the first time some of the inlays came for a overnight stay.  In they all came, suitcase in one hand, and a box fan in the other.  That night the whole house vibrated from the constant  wa  wa  wa coming from all of those fans!

I must admit, I'm still a lover of fans.   My preference has become ceiling fan.  Even in winter, that sucker is running 24/7!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Beach Kitchen on a budget

For me, beaching is the ultimate in relaxation.  There is a saying "a cold, wet, cloudy day at the beach beats sitting at home, every time".  When beaching, leave all of your problems and stresses at home, because they will most definitely be there when you get back!

Once you are at your vacation location, the biggest decisions should be who gets the shower first, where's the extra roll of toilet paper and paper towels, and what are we gonna eat tonight?  The first part is easy.  The last item, food, can bring on that stress you left at home.  There are easy fixes to the food issue.

First:  plan ahead.  Decide before the trip what will be the breakfast fare.  Some of this items can be stocked up ahead of time.  Pick them up when they are on special at the store weeks ahead of the trip.  If you are an "all dayer", plan to take sandwiches and light snacks to the beach with you.  Small fruit cups are wonderful when you pull them out of your cooler ice cold!  Remember, quart size bags full of water frozen overnight make excellent and cheap ice for the beach.  Personally I've moved on to Ziparitas (margaritas in a Ziploc bag).  Cooler drinks like Capri Suns also make great ice substitutes, and when they become a little slushy, cut open the bottom for a frozen treat.

For dinner dining, planning is the absolute key.  During the busy summer season, plan on restaurant dining either early, or late.  If you hit the restaurants at prime time, you will be sitting for quite a while with that buzzer pager thing in your hand.  Remember, you left all that stress at home.

Look at and for restaurant recommendations.  Of course, the best recommendations always come from friends and family.  Look up your choices on their website, taking note of the address and phone number, and days and hours of operation.  This makes locating the restaurant much easier on your smart phone and you can call them to find out how long the wait will be, and some will go ahead and put you on their waiting list.

Second:  Once you have narrowed your restaurant list down, have the members of your crew tell you what they would like to eat or where.  With older children and adults, let them pick, taking the choice stress off of you.  If you are bringing along a teenage quest, give everyone a dollar limit on what they can order.  This keeps those high dollar menu items off your bill.  I learned the hard way a time or two.  If large group seating is an issue, break your party into several groups.  If you tip less than 18% this will save you on the check.  For me, its their loss because I usually do more.

Third:  If you are budget conscious this one is for you.  If your trip is a seven day vacation, you only have to plan for five.  Day one is of course your arrival day, and day seven is your day of departure.  With adults in your party, take turns preparing the meals.  On arrival day, check-in is usually after 3 or 4 p.m.  Once checked in, make your grocery store run.  Remember, you can pack frozen items the morning of your departure, and most will still be fairly frozen when you arrive.  Things like chicken spaghetti casserole, ribs, chicken wings, boston butts, hamburger patties, etc....

Here are twelve easy to do, informal beaching recipes or ideas:

Chicken spaghetti casserole:  Make this ahead at home and freeze it.  When you reach your destination, warm it up for an easy suppertime meal.  Throw in a salad and French bread from the local grocer, and you have yourself an easy meal. (From Vicki L)

Shrimp Creole:  Pick up a pound or so of shrimp at the local grocer.  Thaw and peel the shrimp if frozen.  Leaving the tail on is optional.  In a skillet, add one or two jars of spaghetti sauce and begin to simmer.  Add raw shrimp, allowing them to simmer in the sauce until done.  Prepare one or two bags of "boil in the bag" rice.  Serve shrimp and sauce on top of a bed of rice.  Add salad and bread and there you go!

Jambalaya:  Purchase a rotisserie chicken, a package of smoked sausage, two cans of chicken broth, and two boxes of Zatarian's Jambalaya mix.   Debone and cut up the chicken meat.  Slice sausage into small pieces.  Follow the instructions on the Zatarian's box.  Quick meal in 30 minutes.

Boston Butt:  Line oven broiler pan with foil.  Season the outside of the port butt with port butt rub. (I use Tony C's.)  Put butt on broiler pan top, bake on 225-250 degrees overnight, 8 to 12 hours, depending on the size of the butt.  Once it is done, allow it to cool to the touch.  Pull apart the meat, placing a handful of meat on hamburger buns.   Add sauce and an optional spoon of cole slaw. 

Rotel Dip:   Cube up a large block of Velveeta cheese and put into microwaveable bowl.  add two cans of Rotel tomatoes to the bowl.  Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes.  Stir. Repeat microwaving for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted.  Optional:  brown a pound of hot sausage, cooking it into crumbles.  Drain excess grease on paper towels.  Add cooked sausage to cheese and tomatoes and stir.  Microwave more as needed.  Serve with your favorite chips.

Burger:  You can buy burger patties already made up, usually with cheeses like cheddar, pepperjack, bleu cheese, and even gouda cheese.    Plain cheese-less burgers are fine, but, OMG! these cheesy ones are the bomb!  If no gas grill is available, purchase charcoal in the "just light it bag" that requires no lighter fliud.  You may need to add more charcoal, depending on how many burgers you are preparing.

Roasted Corn on the Cob:  Grew up in the Mississippi Delta eating veggies all summer, especially cob on the cob, usually boiled.  Not anymore.  Light your fire.  add your corn, sucks and all, to the grill.  Cook until the first layer of sucks are almost burned off.  Corn will be hot to the touch and will stay warm for a good while in the shucks.  Peel back the shucks and silk, add your butter and bite in.  I don't cook fresh corn any other way anymore!

Baby Back Ribs:  Remove ribs from the package.  using a butterknife, remove the membrane from the backside of the slab of ribs.  Apply a good coating of pork rub to both sides of the slab.  Place ribs on grill, 5-10 minutes on each side.  Remove ribs, placing them on sheet of aluminum foil, adding more pork rub.  add optional wet barbeque sauce.  foil up foil around ribs.  place ribs back on grill, medium to low heat.  cook 1/5 to 2 hours.  Open up, add more sauce if desired.  Place wet ribs, in foil, back on grill for a few minutes to allow the sauce to heat up.  Remove from gill, cut into serving portions and eat!  This can also be done in the oven. (from Pat P.)

Chicken Wings:  If wing joints are still connected, cut into three pieces, discarding the wing tip.  Season the wing pieces with dry rub liberally.  Cook on low to medium heat, rotating wings for even cooking.  Cooking time: 45 minutes to an hour, or longer, depending on heat source.

Mexican Meat:   Cook one pound of ground beef, add one can of Rotel tomatoes and a package of taco seasoning. Stir well and add one medium sized block of Velveeta (regular, not Mexican). cut into pieces and stir until melted. On your plate, put a layer of lettuce, a layer of Fritos or Tortilla chips and spoon the mixture over it. (from Cindy B.) 

Bone in Porkchop:  Have the butcher cut you some pork chops with bone, about 1 inch thick.  season with pork rub, grilling on hot temperature, approximately 10 minutes on each side.  Make sure meat is fully cooked before serving. (from Sharon E.)

Jim Buck Ross Barbeque Sauce (chicken)
Mix up the sauce and freeze for the trip to the beach. (don't forget a dipping mop!)
2 cups cider vinegar, 1 cup oil, 1 teaspoon Tobasco, 1/2 Jar onion powder, 1/2 box black papper
1 teaspoon red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic juice, 8 teaspoons salt, and juice of 4 lemons.  Bring ingredients to a boil, including lemon rind.

At the beach:  warm up sauce on stove.  Cook chicken(I prefer halves) on grill for an hour, remember to flip chick parts as needed, trying not to burn.  Begin basting chicken with sauce until chicken is done.  Baste done chicken with remaining sauce before serving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach: Toes in the Sand and a Drink in Your Hand, But You Gotta Eat!


Anybody that travels Interstate I-10 with any frequency, especially during the summer months, have experienced backed up traffic at the Mobile, AL tunnel a time or two. This backup is the result, usually on weekends when the "beachers" are headed to/from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach via highway 59 at Loxley.

There are some alternate routes to avoid some of this backup of traffic, but not all.  Going east, you can take the Bay Bridge over Mobile Bay.  From I 10 take the I65 exit and go north.  Traffic coming east on Hwy 45 and Hwy 98 can also head north.  In just a few miles (around 8 from I-10), you will exit onto I-165.  In just a short distance, you will exit right at the Bay Bridge Exit, then turn left.  Up, Up you will go, till you have reached the top of the suspension bridge.  Not much to see, since this is an industrial area.  You continue till you come to where I-10 exits the tunnel at Hwy 90 & 98.  The entrance to I-10 is approximately 3 miles, or you can continue on the highway for a few miles till you reach Daphne.  There are several restaurants along the route, Felix, Ralph & Kacoos, and several others further along the highway.

As you travel further east on I-10 from Daphne, the traffic will be slow all the way to the Hwy 59 exit at Loxley.  Most folks know that Hwy 59 is full of stop and go traffic, with the same said "beachers" and outlet mall shoppers stopping in Foley. 

If you will stay on Interstate I-10, heading east for about 5 more miles, you will find the Baldwyn Express.  This fairly new interchange runs into the Foley Beach Express, with ends up at the toll bridge as you are approaching Orange Beach.  Travelers heading to Gulf Shores can also take this route to save some time, as their are intersecting roads that head west back to Gulf Shores.  Remember there is a $3.50 toll at the bridge to continue forward to Orange Beach.  CR-4 will take you west to Gulf Shores with no toll charge.

All this travel knowledge will make you hungry.  Now for the serious stuff.  Favorite restaurants:

6232 County Road 10 Bon Secour Highway Bon Secour, AL 36511
 Tel : 251.949.5086

This sucker is a little out of the way, but well worth the trip!  Its off the beaten path of  Hwy 59, south of Foley.  You might want to use your GPS the first time.   I like to go early and miss the crowd.

Their steams royal reds are awesome, and you have to try their oysters, which for me, the Oysters Margret are the bomb.  I'm not much for the raw ones, but will indulge in "one" once a year, at the prodding of the spousal unit!

Everything on their entree list is wonderful, especially the fish of the day features

1137 Gulf Shores Parkway
Gulf Shores, AL 36542

The steamed Ocean Sampler Platter is the ultimate dining pleasure, is a bit pricey at $125 for two, but oh so good!

Anything from their fryer/broiler will also satisfy any hunger pains, especially their shrimp dishes and Jimbo's Signature Combination Seafood Platter .

The restaurant is a bit small, so you might want to go early to miss the crowds.

200 East 25th Avenue
Gulf Shores, AL. 36542
251-967-LULU (5858)

Lulu's is located on the Inter Coastal Waterway, almost under the bridge on Hwy 59.  You turn at the Race Track to get there.  They have something for everyone.  Very large footprint, with fun things for the kids to do while you wait your turn.

Lulu's is good for a big crowd, with lots of appetizers to choose from and seafood baskets and sandwiches to feast on. They also have live music to entertain you during your visit.  And don't feed the birds.....

216 East 24th Avenue, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
 Phone: 251-424-1783

This location is also located on the Inter Coastal Highway, across from Lulu's.

Here, its all about the oysters and their Shrimp and Oyster Po-boys!  For me, its the chargrilled oysters and the Peacemaker Po-boy, which is half shrimp and half oyster.


137 East Gulf Place
Gulf Shores, AL 36542

PPP is located at the end of Hwy 59, just left of the "Hangout".  Public parking is located to the right of the "Hangout" is the regular parking is full.  There is a small parking fee for this other lot.

If its a cool drink or a cold beer, this is the place for you!  We go for the appetizers and a few drinks when staying close by.

27500 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach, AL 36561
(251) 424-1800

Gulf is a neat little niche restaurant on the left just before the Perdido Pass Bridge.  The restaurant has mostly outdoor dining, with the structure made out of steel shipping containers.  They have two stations, a food station  and a beverage station.  You pay as you go from station to the other with self seating. 

The menu has a limited number of items, with a "fish of the day" as a featured item, which typically sells out quickly.  The Fried Grouper Sandwich and the Gulf Burger are highly recommended also.

 27206 Safe Harbor Drive , Orange Beach, AL  35561

There are several other locations, but this one is our favorite, sitting right on the Bay, with boat docking.  I get a kick out of meeting the waitresses, some of which come from Eastern Europe (the old USSR).  Its neat to sit, have a cool one with some appetizers and watch the boat traffic go by.

Their "Tacky Shrimp" comes served three different ways, all good.  The other entrees are also wonderful, served fried, grilled, or blackened.

2nd avenue and Hwy 59, Gulf Shores, AL

26651 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach, AL  36561

There are more locations in the area, with these two being the closest to the area..

It is simply all about the shrimp period!  We like it so must, the Hattiesburg location has become one of our pit stop favorites!

13486 Perdido Key Dr. Pensacola, FL 32507

While this restaurant isn't in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, it is simply worth the drive down the coastline into Florida.  They started out as a seafood market and finally opened up a restaurant across the street.  It is almost under the Theo Baars Bridge.  The building looks like a shack, but once you enter the building you are welcomed with linen napkins and white table cloths.

The Shrimp & Grits is out of this world, but honestly everything on the menu is excellent!  Definitely worth the drive.  Lunch is a minimal wait, but reservations for dinner are highly recommended due to the limited seating.

26651 Perdido Beach Blvd
Orange Beach, AL 36561


This is one of the spousal unit's favorites when she is on one of those "girls only" trip.  Probably the reason I have not tried it.  The women love the salad.  If you like Italian, this is your place.  they have all the traditional dishes and more!

Destin Good Eats

Everybody has their favorite places to eat that are "must go" when you start planning where to spend your dining dollars.  During the peak summer season, it can be frustrating trying to get into any restaurant, much less your favorites.  The best trick, is to either go early, or go late, or just wait, and wait and wait....

In the Destin area, like everywhere else, their are lots of restaurants to choose from.  There are the typical chain locations, fast junk food, and the local spots that have been there for years, and some that are fairly new.

Here are 10 of our favorites that you might want to try on your next visit.  Our favorite list will grow, thanks to our friend that are locals, Jenn, Josh and HDR Ring!

 140 Fisherman's Cove, Sandestin, FL 32550

While this is not a local, it has been around for a number of years.  They originate out of Louisiana, and they also have a location in Gulf Shores.  They are Located at the Bay Towne Wharf, in Sandestin.

Our favorites are their chargrilled oysters, followed by their shrimp and oyster poboys. 

 3500 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 654-2722

Additional locations are found in Ft. Walton and Perdido Key

Our favorite are the She Crab  soup and the Crab Trap Boil, along with the other dishes featuring crab legs

2962 Scenic Highway, Miramar, FL

We usually go here the day of our arrival and sample their appetizers along with a cold beer. 
Our favorites are the fried crab claws, the spicy Mahi tenders, and the Zydeco Shrimp

775 Gulf Shore Drive, Destin FL  32541

Another location can be found in Orange Beach, AL

You cannot go wrong with any of their grouper dishes, especially Grouper Pontchartrain, and Grouper Louisianne.  Your waistline with be looking for expansion after this visit!

35 Mussett Bayou Rd, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

The location is past Sandestin, just off of Hwy 98.  They do not take credit cards, but they do have an ATM on site.

They have a limited menu, but everything is superb!  The Pan Sauteed Grouper is to die for!

1740 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541

These guys have been around since 1974.  An additional location is in Panama City, FL

You can't go wrong with their Crab Stuffed Shrimp and the Crab Stuffed Mahi Mahi

538 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL  32541

If you are into sushi, this place can't be beat!  Also their dinner menu fish of the day is awesome!

4424 Commons Dr E, Destin, FL  32541

Another location is in Panama City, FL

If draft beer and specialty cocktails are your thing, this is the place to be!  Went there with some friends that are locals, and our son Matthew was in craft beer heaven!

3796 Scenic Highway, Destin, FL  32541

You can't go wrong with any of their grouper or snapper dishes.

755 Grand Blvd., Suite B107
Miramar Beach, FL 32550

This is just one of several locations.  They are pretty much a chain with lots of locations in the South.
I listed this one because of its location, just off Hwy 98.  The best kept secret location is the one in Sandestin, located at the conference center.  Hardly any wait compared to the Bay Towne Wharf location.

Honestly, anything on the menu is to die for.  My favorite is the Eggs Benedict!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Beach Games

When you plan your vacations around a beach location, one must be creative when it comes to entertaining yourself.  A week is a long time to just sit in a beach chair, under an umbrella, and sipping margaritas.

If me it's easy.  When.the beach is crowded with sunbathers, there is always something that will catch your eye that is funny, what the hell, or you gotta  be kidding me....

The old standbys include playing in the surf, building sand castles, reading a book, or just baking like bacon.

Here is a list of other amusing things to do:

1. Squirting some sun screen on your partner while they are napping and pretend they just got the bird flyover treatment.  Saw it done and I've never laughed so hard!

2.  Watch others enter the surf and try and guess which ones are turning.the water yellow.  When the water is really cold it is hilarious to watch them ease into the surf!

3.  Saw this one yesterday. On a big surf day, play kickball.   Kick a ball into the surf and wait on the waves to return it to you.

4.  Watch for the guy with the expensive sunglasses on his head with no strap on them.  Chances are he will return from the surf without them.  See it every beach trip.

5.  Look for the solo gal with the selfie stick.  It's amusing to see how many poses these women will do for that perfect selfie pic!

6.  Bring some left over bread or crackers.  When you spot a sea gull close to your beach neighbors that are face down or taking a nap, feed the bird by throwing the the scraps over near the peeps.  Before you know it one bird  becomes ten, then twenty.

7.  Apply a hand print with sun.screen on the back of your buddy.  By the end of the day he ends up with a red outline of your hand!

8.  When you spot a gal with a tattoo,  immediately guess how many others she might have then start looking and counting.

9.  Have your spousal unit be on the lookout for oddities and strange behaviors.  They make good blog postings!

10.  Take pictures of the days events and share  them with your Facebook friends.  But remember, when it comes to your beach party, what happens on the beach stays on the beach!

Feel free to add to the list please!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Snow birding in April

Spring break season has come and gone.  All the college kids are back in school, counting the days til summer.  Some will stay for summer classes, some will head home, and others will be heading back to the beach with families on vacations and others will scrambling for a job to fill their summer.

Lots of places down here in the Destin area have their signs out with the words "now hiring"!  Even Lulu's from Gulf Shores is getting into the act with the opening of a Destin location this summer.

 We are staying at the Beach Street Cottages, next to Kenny D's and across the street from Captain Dave's.  No way we are going to starve this trip!  We have our own access to the beach.  The walk is comparable to other places we have been to.  The traffic is at a very slow pace since this is the scenic drive section of old highway 90.  Once we hit the sand, we noticed that our section is sandwiched in between two " private" sections of beach.  I have a feeling that this spot is not crowded at all year round since there is no public parking.

With the beach being so vacant, there was lots of bird activity.  It was fun to watch this little bird do his version of the river dance.  He was working his was down the shoreline, looking for bits here and there to eat.  He would follow the waves back into the sea, then scurry back when the next wave would appear.

The purple flags were up, and eventually we discovered why.  A jellyfish washed ashore from all the large wave activity.  A beachcomber walks up and naturally he has to pick it up. I was just waiting for one of the long legs to eventually touch his leg and sting him, but no such luck today!

Our complex is made up of about 25 beach cottages that have two units in each, one upstairs and one down stairs.  The pool area is located in the center, and the water is heated.  As we ventured around, it was real clear that we were in snow bird country.  The only young people here are either single or have small children.  But hey, its not crowded!

There was a small gathering of elders in and around the pool.  I had the strangest feeling overcome me that I was in a scene in the movie Cocoon!  If only the warm waters of the pool would make me feel 30 (or lower) again!  Son Matthew arrived with girl friend, and he made the same observation!

Met the couple next door.  He was grilling, YES!  He noticed the spousal unit's shirt and he yelled "Hotty Toddy" and she yelled it back in return.  They are from Georgia, son graduated with a bartender degree from Ole Miss and they come to this complex 4 or 5 times a year.  I may have to join him at that grill with a beer or two in the next day or so.

I'm loving the much slower pace around here.  Becoming a "cocooner" just may be in my future!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Time Sharing 101

You get stuff in the mail.  Sometimes its one of those unsolicited phone calls.  Both are offering for a discounted or free mini vacation.  Come for a visit, only need 90 minutes of your time.

Some swallow the hook, most don't.  How can you resist a cheap trip to the beach, to Orlando, or even Las Vegas?!!!  You get there.  The resort is fabulous!  Great rooms, fantastic pool, and worse, your family loves the experience!  Humm...  Maybe, just maybe, this thing is worth it....  Bam! The hook is officially set!  Now off to that ninety minute presentation.

In you go, all excited to hear the spill!  The ninety minutes have come and gone.  You are now at the closing table.  Sticker shock!  Rutrow,  they don't seem to comprehend that you have said "no" in six different languages!  They then send in several levels of management to entice you to sign.  The more you say no, the sweeter the offering.  Finally, you either give in and sign, or temperament reaches a boiling point and they finally give up and you leave!

The same thing happens to buyers on return trips.  You are offered a gift card etc... To come to an update meeting.  Same ninety minutes, and here is a new improved latest deal offering for you to absorb!  Gotcha number two!

Yep, been through all that.  Swallowed the hook.  I like the deal but I choke when I hear the price.  Gotta be a cheaper way, right???

Yes, actually there is!  The resale market is as big as the direct sale market or bigger!  A quick internet search reveals tons of sites offering timeshare resales.  With a bit of searching you actually can find a few "steal of a deal" out there.  I've done it several times and I'm occasionally looking for more!

The timeshare sales people hate the resale market.  It after all takes away from their livelihood.  They discourage it by telling you that the maintenance fees are higher on those properties, and you don't get all of the club benefits from buying from them!  My justification is that the up front cost is so low, that it more than offsets the higher maintenance fees for years!

If you are interested in these resorts, take the hook, but don't swallow it.  Learn as much as you can about the resort and the club.  If you decide this is for you, still say no, especially on that first visit.  I promise, those sweet deals will still be there on future visits.  Its all about the sale!

If you want more for less, the resale market is the way to go.  Yes, you do give up all those fancy club benefits.  But, do you really need them anyway?

Knowledge is the key, and when it fits the lock and opens the door, I say its margarita time!  I'm even willing to share if you're buying the beer!